How's Your Website Design?
Can you imagine not having a website?
Today, it's unheard of...and not only do you need one, but let's get more specific on what your website should include.
I remember back to the days of 1992 when I first realized our Mechanical Contracting business in New Jersey needed a website. Of course, everyone looked at me cock-eyed, I must be crazy... or at least extremely egotistical. I was neither. I had just come to the realization that that was going to be the next step to reaching prospective customers that needed our services. Yellow Page advertising, which was then our largest and predominant exposure was losing ground. I didn't let my 'fingers do the walking' so why would I anticipate that everyone else might?
And so, I attempted to gather as much information as was available then. It was, as you may well imagine, far more limited than what's out there today. Our first website was designed and built sometime around 1996 by a local company which is no longer in business. It was, then, informative, simple, and a total of about 5 pages. There was an email address listed. But, I don't recall ever getting an email. (In those days it was considered correct to have an email address listed, and so anyone with a website had an "info@" email address.
Very few contractors at that time had websites, and so we were in the forefront. But, most people that were not in business didn't have computers in their homes, so who, exactly, was looking at our website? Of course, we had no idea!
There was a counter on the bottom page of the website. I remember seeing that at some point, over years, we had over 1,600 visits. WOW! Today I would be far less than pleased with numbers like that. And no one then gave any thought to website content. As a matter of fact, I don't even recall that term as part of common convesration.
In the early part of 2007 I found a graphic designer who had been recommended by the company that hosted our website at that time and contacted him to build a fresh new design for us. And, he did.
The website had now grown to about 8 pages, including an 'About Us' page, and one page each for the types of services we offered, and of course the ever-popular Home Page. The website copy, provided by me, gave details about our expertise, included images that would link to a form (which I learned when I decided to move my site and migrate to HubSpot was called a Call-To-Action). And, the planned result would be that we'd get an email with information from this propspective or existing customer detailing the needs he/she had for our services! Very cool, I thought...
I registered for a seminar on Search Engine Marketing. At this seminar, I had the good fortune of meeting an expert in the field of SEM. He spoke about what a company's website needed to have in order to be "found". I established a friendly rapport with him and because my website re-design had just been completed that very morning, and I was almost complete with my proofing, I asked if he'd mind taking a look at the site and giving a professional opinion on what might be missing. (Of course I was hoping for accolades!)
I stood behind him, peering over his shoulder while he read page by page and he turned with a sort of confused look on his face. He explained to me that my website looked very nice. The graphics were clean, the colors were comfortable, and the wording was pleasant. BUT...there was nothing on the page in terms of optimization, that would be read by any of the search engines (and this was when Google was in its very early stages having launched it's initial IPO in August of 2004.) He tossed around words like long-tail keywords, on-page optimization, 'above the fold' and I was bewildered, to say the least.
I remember going home that night and at midnight sending an email to the graphic designer and telling him that while the site looked pretty, I was told it was pretty useless in terms of bringing in business. And so, I started my research and began learning about long-tail keywords, the "right" way to build a website and optimization for search engines.
Fast-Forward to 2011 and I decided that our site needed some professional SEO work. I pulled out my books, read from top to bottom, and consulted with an expert.
Since continuous learning in this arena is my passion, I have since learned the following:
Basically, the first and most important characteristic one must keep in mind when designing a website is:
- Always start and end with the viewer in mind.
- Make navigation throughout your site easy.
- Provide an easy route for your viewer to find the information they're looking for.
- Be consistent in your design.
- Create a clear Call-To-Action that includes a form and follow-up.
- Brand your company.
- Include a blog to keep your viewers engaged.
- Post to your blog on a regular basis.
- Take advantage of Social Media.
Be sure to carefully select keywords that bring searchers to your site.
Then give the viewers the information they seek.